Free will, or determinism?

November 2006

Free will, or determinism? Scott Adams has written about his theories before. The Christian tradition has fluctuated all over the place, but has generally held to some amount of free will.

I find myself leaning towards determinism. Sure, there must be some element of free will, but the more I look, the more I can see the chain of events and responses which lead to me making a particular, seemingly spontaneous decision. I can stall the decision, sure. I can even (I think) change it sometimes—times where there are two nearly equal options, perhaps, and it doesn't take much to tip the balance. But on the whole, I too often make the choice I know I'm going to make.

I'm beginning to see free will as a function of strength-of-will, and I'm not as strong as I thought myself.

Angus commented:

Eh, your post on this topic was pretty predictable, really.

Nato commented:

It sounds like you're saying that people don't have as much will as they thought they did, and hence they invariably are drawn to make determined decisions. I'm not sure that's determinism - Doesn't determinism include the idea that even you will is predictable, so even if you had a strong sense of will, it would still be predictable?

Matt commented:

Hmm… I guess that's true. Maybe I'm using strong- or free-willed not in the sense of being able to make the decision you desire, but to be able to make an unexpected decision, whether you favour it or not. That would be beating determinism, right?

Nato commented:

Maybe... But even so, trying to do something unexpected because you didn't want to be deterministic could still be predictable (you'd just need someone to be pretty good at predicting), and thus is deterministic...

If you want to prove determinism wrong, you'd need to do that with some form of argument, rather than actions. No matter how unpredictable your actions are, it's possible that someone with infinite computing power could have predicted your behaviour.